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Archive for the ‘Monsters’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: hiatus

[READ: August 2021] Secrets of Camp Whatever

I’m not sure who brought this book home, my wife or my daughter, but I was pretty delighted to read it.

Two kids are heading to the town of Nowhere with their parents. They are moving into their father’s mother’s old house on the outskirts of town.  It’s a small town and when they pull into the local diner, the waitress tells them to turn around and go back home… that place is haunted.  But the local museum owner, Henry Person, tells them not to believe that nonsense.

He says that Nowhere is known for unusual things–monsters in the lakes, elves in the forest, even a bigfoot sighting.  But the fog is so thick no one can confirm anything.

Willow is going to summer camp and is not particularly pleased about it.  Her younger brother Gryphon is not going to camp, but he really wants to.  Where’s the justice?  When their mother hears about the fog and the creepiness around the camp she wonders whether they should even send WIllow.

But the kids’ dad when to Camp … Whatever like a million years ago and he is pretty excited for Willow to go.  He can’t wait for her to hear all about the camp at the opening campfire.  Even if a kid did go missing the year he was there… and was never heard from again.

But Mr Person says the camp hired a new camp director … Clarence Tooter, a big game hunter.  He’ll keep the place safe.

A nice touch is that Willow uses a hearing aid, but it’s not a big deal to the story.    Except that Mr Tooter believes she is deaf and so he yells at here whenever he sees her.  And that sign language is very important to the story (although the reader doesn’t need to know it). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: hiatus

[READ: Fall 2021] Men at Arms

The Watch is back and it’s getting bigger.

And they are going to have to deal with another person who is trying to oust Patrician Vetinari.  This time the person in question is Edward D’eath a high ranking member of the Assassins Guild. D’eath has been doing genealogical research and he believes that Corporal Carrot might be the rightful heir to the throne of Ankh-Morpork–the throne which even Lord Vetinari won’t sit on (but won’t remove either).

Meanwhile, Captain Sam Vimes is about to be married to Lady Sybil Ramkin (I can’t believe that the Vimes /Lady Sybil relationship was settled after just one book!)

Sam is delighted with Sybil, but he hates just about everything else about the upcoming marriage.  He hates that Sybil is one of the richest women in Ankh-Morpork.  He hates hobnobbing with the other rich people in the city (Sybil is really very different from everyone else, which is why he loves her). He is even rather uncomfortable with just how rich Sybil is.  There’s a very spot-on argument about how rich people even save money when they buy expensive things.  For instance, the average cop can’t afford to buy expensive shoes that last.  So instead he has to buy cheap shoed that wear out quickly.  Then he has to buy another pair.  And then another pair.  Three $20 pairs that don’t last as long as one $50 pair.

The worst thing for Sam is that he really doesn’t want to give up being a cop.  Well, maybe he kind of does, but it’s all he knows.  And he knows that he’ll miss it.  Even if things are changing around him. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: hiatus

[READ: October 2021] Reaper Man

This book opens unlike any other, with an amorphous group of beings called The Auditors of Reality.  (Well, it opens with a bit about Morris Dancing, which is pretty funny).  The Auditors have no individual personalities (in fact, when One says I (“I hate them”) it is immediately dispatched so a more neutral Auditor can take its place.

The Auditors want to make sure that everything is following the Rules. And what isn’t following the Rules?  Well, Death isn’t following the rules.  Death is developing a personality.  And that cannot happen.  So they fire him.  Yes indeed.

He goes off on his own trying to figure things out.  He winds up getting a job as a farm hand (his reaping skills are unparalleled).  The woman he works for is quite suspicious of him (and everyone in town is quite suspicious of her). Death is caught off guard and when she asks his name he comes up with unsuspicious name of Bill Door.

The woman is Miss Fitworth.  She is an elderly woman (rumored to have a large chest with a lot of money in it).  She had a fiancé who went on a business trip and never came back.  Rumor is that he left her, but she doesn’t believe it.

This is all well and good, but without Death, dead humans don’t know what to do–no one is there to guide them to the afterlife.  So they kind of just keep piling up.  Poltergeists run amok.  And then there is aged Wizard Windle Poons.  He was really looking forward to reincarnation.  But after he died, his spirit just returned to his body.  Of course, since he is dead, he doesn’t have any concern with old age–his sight and strength are better than they have been in years.  But everyone is more than a little freaked out by him. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: FLOCK OF DIMES-Tiny Desk Concert #246 (August 10, 2021).

Flock of Dimes is a fun band name.  It’s the solo project of Wye Oak’s Jenn Wasner (I thought Wye Oak was a solo project as well–no, it’s a duo).  [Gee, why wasn’t Andy Stack invited to this sing along?]

For this Home Concert, the solo project turns huge with nine people sitting around having a big ol’ sing along (I’ll assume they are all vaccinated and that this was filmed before Delta took off).

The setup is pretty simple: three guitars (I love that the guys on the couch are lefty (Michael Libramento, baritone guitar) and righty (Alan Good Parker, tenor guitar) so it looks appealingly symmetrical). some percussion and a lot of voices (the men on the right of the screen seems somewhat less invested).

The friends who are singing along include the three singers from Mountain Man: Amelia Randall Meath, Molly Sarlé and Alexandra Sauser-Monnig.  Meath is also in Sylvan Esso and her bandmate Nick Sanborn is also present (he’s one of the less invested men).  The set is filmed at Sylvan Esso’s new studio in Durham, N.C., called Betty’s.

“Two” is a bouncy number with lots of percussion.  I like the way the backing singers join in from time to time, but not constantly–it introduces new voices throughout.

One of the invested men is percussionist Matthew McCaughan from Bon Iver–he’s got a full complement of instruments at hand.  Joe Westerland (from Megafaun) is the other percussionist, he’s just a bit more subtle in his actions, but you can see him gently tapping through “Two.”

“Price of Blue” is a little slower but it has a wonderful melody.  The harmonies really standout on this song.

I don’t know the originals of these songs, but I have to assume the blurb is correct

These acoustic performances actually shed new light, thanks to radiant and radically different arrangements, while fully capturing the warmth we look for from Tiny Desk concerts.

Whatever the case, the backing vocals are tremendous.  You can really hear Molly Sarlé’s gorgeous harmony vocals.

“Awake For The Sunrise” feels like an old fashioned fire side sing along.  I’ve enjoyed Wye Oak’s music but I don’t know it very well.  I rather like Wassner’s delivery here–but i feel like these songs might not be as good without these harmonies!

[READ: August 12, 2021] New Teeth

I’m guessing that Simon Rich had a baby.

This collection of stories is loaded with stories about little kids.  And that’s all right because he has a very funny take on being a parent.

The other stories tackle the corporate environment and are full of fish-out-of-water stories.

“Learning the Ropes” is about being a new parent.  But it is written from the point of view of two pirates. And hilarity ensues.

What’s odd to me is that in his first books, his stories were really short, but I feel like lately his stories have gotten much longer–sometimes too long.  This one in particular kind of dragged at times, because it’s pretty much a one-note joke: what? pirates raising a little girl?!  One pirate is a concerned parent which means he wants them both to care about the child.  It’s got a few very funny moments, and of course, when the pirates who speak in pirate style (“The only man I trust is me first mate”) say things like “Arr… it be called ‘limit testing.’ She be acting out because she be craving discipline,” well, that’s classic Simon Rich right there. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PALBERTA-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #210 (May 18, 2021).

Palberta has a great name (even if they are not from Alberta).  They are an underground Philly band.  I saw them a few years ago, and this attitude of relaxed yet frenetic fun was evident then as well.

While many of us have gotten better at using technology to feel close to our friends and collaborators over the past year, there’s still no replacement for being in the same room as someone who you swear can read your mind. That’s what it feels like to watch punk band Palberta, whose music makes magic out of repeated phrases sung in tight harmony and charmingly zany pop hooks. For its Tiny Desk (home) concert, shot on a MiniDV and a Hi8, the band crams into Nina’s Philly basement for a set that’s a testament to the group’s tight-knit collaboration and playful exuberance.

The band plays six songs in fifteen minutes (including the time it takes to switch instruments).  Five songs are off of their new album Palberta5000.

The guitar-bass-drums trio is made up of Ani Ivry-Block, Nina Ryser and Lily Konigsberg, and each member sings and plays each instrument. Here, they trade places every couple of songs.  The songs aren’t over-complicated but still manage to surprise at every turn – a true Palberta specialty.

The “frenzied opener” “Eggs n’ Bac'” has a wild instrumental opening which jumps into a faster indie punk sound for most of the song.  All squeezed into less than 2 minutes.  For this song Nina is on bass, Lily on guitar and Ani on drums.  Their sound reminds me of early Dead Milkmen.  Is this a Philly thing?

For “No Way” Nina stays on bass, Lily switches to drums and Ani takes the guitar.  Nina sings lead with the other two giving great tight harmonies.  For these songs the bass lays down the main melody and the guitars play a lot of single note melodies that run counter to the bass.

For the “queasy-yet-sentimental” “The Cow” it’s the same lineup but Lily sings lead on the first verse and Ani sings leads on the second verse.  The staccato guitar style on this song is so unusual.

For the “anxious and melodic” “Big Bad Want” Lily stays on drums and sings lead, Ani switches to bass and Nina gets the guitar.  Ani plays some chords on the bass and you can really see how the guitar plays a repeated pattern while the bass takes more of a lead role.  The call and response for this chorus is really tight.  Nina even plays a guitar solo.

“Sound of the Beat” (from 2018’s Roach Goin’ Down) is “a sweet testament to grooving” and gets a full lineup switch.  Nina sits behind the kit, Ani is back on guitar and Lily is on bass.  This song is really catchy–surely the catchiest thing in this set.  It has a feeling like early Sleater-Kinney.  All three sing harmony lead.

They end with “Before I Got Here” with same line up.  It’s one of their longer songs at over three minutes.  Ani and Lily switch off lead vocals for the fast verses.  After a minute or so, the tempo shifts and the last two minutes are a slow instrumental jam with Ani playing a guitar solo while Lily keeps the melody on bass.

It’s tempting to try to see if one of them is “better” at one instrument or another, but they are all clearly very comfortable on each instrument.  This leads to endless possibilities for songs.

[READ: May 1, 2021] Weird Women

“Introduction” by Lisa Morton and Leslie S. Klinger

Why summarize when they say what this book is about so well

Any student of the literary history of the weird or horror story can hardly be faulted for expecting to find a genre bereft of female writers, at least in its first two centuries. …

Yet there were women writing early terror tales—in fact, there were a lot of them. During the second half of the nineteenth century, when printing technologies enabled the mass production of cheap newspapers and magazines that needed a steady supply of material, many of the writers supplying that work were women. The middle classes were demanding reading material, and the plethora of magazines, newspapers, and cheap books meant a robust marketplace for authors. Women had limited career opportunities, and writing was probably more appealing than some of the other avenues open to them. Though the publishing world was male-dominated, writing anonymously or using masculine-sounding names (such as “M.E. Braddon”) gave women a chance to break into the market. It was also still a time when writers were freer than today’s writers to write work in a variety of both styles and what we now call genres. A prolific writer might pen adventure stories, romantic tales, domestic stories, mystery or detective fiction, stories of the supernatural—there were really no limits.

Spiritualism—the belief that spirit communication could be conducted by a medium at a séance, and could be scientifically proven (despite continued evidence to the contrary)—was widely popular, and so one might expect to find that many writers of this period were producing ghost stories. But ghost stories were just one type of supernatural story produced by women writers at this time. Women were also writing stories of mummies, werewolves, mad scientists, ancient curses, and banshees. They were writing tales of cosmic horror half a century before Lovecraft ever put pen to paper, and crafting weird westerns, dark metaphorical fables, and those delicious, dread-inducing gems that are simply unclassifiable.

ELIZABETH GASKELL-“The Old Nurse’s Story” (1852)
Gaskell wrote primarily about social realism, but she also wrote this creepy story.  The set up of this story is fascinating. A nursemaid is telling a story to her new charges.  The story is about their mother–from when the nursemaid used to watch her.  The story seems like one of simple haunting–strange things are afoot at this mansion.  But there’s a lot more going on.  I love the way everyone is so calm about the broken pipe organ playing music day and night.  Way back then, the children’s mother saw a girl outside and went to play with her.  But it was winter and when they found the child, alone, under a tree, there was no evidence of anyone else being there with her.  That’s when we learn the history of this house and the way the owner treated his daughters.  The ending gets a little confusing, but when you unpack it, there’s some wonderful deviance at hand. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SARA WATKINS-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #209 (May 13, 2021).

You never really know what you’ll get with Sara Watkins.  Well, that’s not true, you know you’ll get wonderful music in some variant of folk.  Whether she’s playing with Nickel Creek or her brother in Watkins Family Hour, there’s going to be harmonies and wonderful violin.  The big surprise for me for this concert was that she opened with “Tumbling Tumbleweeds.”  Yes, “Tumbling Tumbleweeds” by Sons of the Pioneers.  The trio of Sara Watkins, Alan Hampton and Davíd Garza’s voices sound fantastic together.

This is so enchanting. The painted scrim, the scenery trees are not only a setting for Sara Watkins and her bandmates, but we also discover a “magic desk.” And as Sara lifts the desk’s top, we hear a guitar playing an alluring melody; in fact, it’s Harry Nilsson’s dreamy song “Blanket For a Sail.”

Davíd Garza, [what’s he been up to?] plays the melody and then the rest join in, with Sara playing the violin like a guitar.  Then when Sara puts bow to violin she and Garza share some fun soloing.  Hampton’s upright bass is a perfect low end for these songs.

These songs are surprising to me, but I guess they shouldn’t.

The songs are from her new album, Under the Pepper Tree.  It’s a children’s record, largely inspired by thinking back on the music that meant so much to me as a kid,” she says. “I’ve got a daughter now, and so much of the music that I heard as a kid has stayed with me and served me well.”

One of music’s magical properties for Sara is the way it can ease transitions. Maybe it’s from childhood to adolescence, or falling in and out of love, or simply getting your child to sleep. For this Tiny Desk, we hear old cowboy tunes via the Sons of the Pioneers or Rogers and Hammerstein’s “You’ll Never Walk Alone.”

The album is called “Under the Pepper Tree” because she has had a pepper tree in every house she’s lived in in Southern California {I’ve never heard of pepper trees]. They have a lacey canopy like a willow tree like a fort.  The song is a delightful instrumental.

“You’ll Never Walk Alone” is an old standard and Sara sounds really impressive hitting those high notes at the end.

“Night Singing” is a song she wrote to her daughter, but she realized it was a song she needed to hear as well.  It’s for anyone who needs to feel that they are cared for.  It’s a beautiful lullaby.

A lot of musicians make children’s records after they become parents, and that’s no bad thing.

[READ: June 5, 2021] Have You Seen the Dublin Vampire?

I don’t post about children’s books very often.  But since this came across my desk at work (an even more rare occurrence!), I thought it would be fun to read it.

I’m not familiar with Úna Woods.  This is a rhyming picture book with really fun illustrations–I’m assuming assembled on Photoshop.  The lines are very smooth and consistent and the leaves are all the same with just different colors.

I don’t know if the Dublin Vampire is a thing.  Although Ireland is famous for its vampire creators.

Bram Stoker creator of the world’s most important male vampire in the world (Dracula) was born in Clontarf. Sheridan Le Fanu, creator of the pre-eminent female vampire (Carmilla), was born on Dominick Street.  [Thanks to Supernatural Dublin].

I don’t know Dublin well enough to know if there is a “moon-shaped park with a creepy old tree,” but that’s where the Dublin Vampire lives.

He rides a ghost bus (I’m ALMOST positive there isn’t such a bus in Dublin). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ChocoQuibTown-Tiny Desk Meets AFROPUNK: #204/196 (May 2, 2021).

Tiny Desk Meets AFROPUNK was the opening event of AFROPUNK’s “Black Spring” festival. The virtual celebration, hosted by Jorge “Gitoo” Wright, highlighted outstanding talent in Afro-Latin and Afro-Caribbean music across the globe. Our showcase featured four artists who honored their homes and celebrated the art their heritage has inspired.

 ChocQuibTown–named after the coastal area the trio hails from–is a family affair comprised of siblings Miguel “Slow” Martinez and Gloria “Goyo” Martinez, the latter of which is married to Carlos “Tostao” Valencia. In 2000, the trio formed to promote their neglected corner of Colombia’s culture; today, ChocQuibTown’s music blends the traditionality of Afro-Latin jazz with the modernity of hip-hop to create a singular, yet versatile sound.

They play what I assume is a medley of six songs in fifteen minutes.

“Somos Pacífico” has grooving bass from Braulio Fernández and little horn blasts from José González.

“De Donde Vengo Yo” shifts gears when Tostao starts singing lead the repeated “ah has” from Eignar Renteria and Yaima Saurez are very fun.  Goyo raps and then Slow raps.  Rapping in Spanish has a really nice flow.

“¡Tú sabes!” Carlos “Tostao” Valencia exclaims after Colombian hip-hop trio ChocQuibTown performs its second song, the energetic “De Donde Vengo Yo.” “ChocQuibTown, straight from Colombia, from the Pacific coast,” he says. “We call it Africa inside Colombia, we got the flavor, we got the flow.”

The rest of the songs are much quieter.  “Pa Olvidarte” has soft acoustic guitar from Alejandro García and keys from Daniel Rodríguez “Noize.”  They sing softly in nice harmony.

“Qué Lástima” is another slow ballad, this one sung by Slow, with gentle percussion from Carlos Palm.  “Lo Que Quieras Tú” segues smoothly into “Cuando Te Veo” which is a little bouncier and fun to start but it slows down for Goyo’s vocals.  As the send the song out, Tostao does some sound effects scratching and singing Tiny Desk and blapping.

[READ May 30, 2021] Red Sonja and Vampirella Meet Betty and Veronica

I don’t understand crossovers.  Well, I understand some, when they make sense.  It’s ones like this that I don’t understand.  Did someone just say, Wouldn’t it be cool if Red Sonja and Vampirella teamed up and went to Riverdale?  I guess so.  And sometimes the most ridiculous crossovers make the best stories.

Amy Chu wrote this story with Alexander Chang’s assistance on book 5.

Now, I don’t watch Riverdale, but I know the show.  So obviously this isn’t old school Betty and Veronica.  But neither, I don’t think, is it Riverdale-based either (or maybe it is).  I’ve also never read Red Sonja or Vampirella books.  So really this crossover event is not for me.

And yet, I did enjoy it.

The book opens with a teacher getting killed and then a shot of Red Sonja and Vampirella in the woods.  Now, I realize that these two characters were created by men, and that’s why they are dressed as they are.   Red Sonja could not be dressed more impractically for fighting as she is wearing a hooded cape and a chain mail bikini.  I mean, the absurdity of dressing like that for combat is monumental.  The cape alone would cause her no end of grief.  Vampirella is at least wearing clothes–a cleavage enhancing skin tight tank top and super low cut off jeans.  But hey, she’s a seductress, right?

I guess I was surprised that Amy and artist Maria Laura Sanapo would keep these costumes. But they do need to establish the characters traditionally first, right?  It was a nice surprise when a few pages later, Betty & Veronica (who aren’t at all disturbed by a woman in a chain mail bikini with a large sword) invite them over and dress them in regular clothes (still sexy) so they blend in. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: CALMA CARMONA-Tiny Desk Meets AFROPUNK: #204/196 (May 2, 2021).

Tiny Desk Meets AFROPUNK was the opening event of AFROPUNK’s “Black Spring” festival. The virtual celebration, hosted by Jorge “Gitoo” Wright, highlighted outstanding talent in Afro-Latin and Afro-Caribbean music across the globe. Our showcase featured four artists who honored their homes and celebrated the art their heritage has inspired.

Calma Carmona got her start in 2013 when the Latin soul singer-songwriter released her first EP and opened for Beyoncé’s The Mrs. Carter Show World Tour in Puerto Rico.

Carmona is mesmerizing as the massive amount of dreadlocks is piled on top of her head.  The setting is fascinating–it looks like an aquarium–a dark hallway with lit windows, but instead of fish there seems to be technology in the windows.  I love how in some scenes, it’s almost totally black–since (almost) everyone is dressed in black as well.

Her music is not dark, though.  Indeed, “When I Was Your Girl” has a kind of reggae feel, at least from the rhythm guitar (which I’m assuming is looped because Pedro “PJ” González is playing lead throughout. Carmona’s voice is quiet and kind of sultry through this song and when she’s supported by her backing singers, Athina Alejandra, Almonte Duluc and Yarinés Salgado, they sound great together.

There’s a lot of drums in these songs, although it’s so dark it’s hard to know who is doing what. Gabriel Oliver plays drums and he, Andres “Kino” Cruz and José “Junny” Elicier all play the barril, a traditional hand drum.

From her hometown of San Juan, Puerto Rico, Calma Carmona delivers a bewitching Tiny Desk performance. Her voice rarely rises above a whisper as she sings over impassioned Afrobeats during her three-song set — but when it does, it’s a gritty, intimidating growl.

That growl is present on “Ella Se Mueve” a darker song with deep bass from Adrián “AJ” Rodríguez and distorted deep keys from J. Rochet.  “PJ” González noodles some guitar solos throughout and you can really hear the barril.  Carmona sang in English on the first song but she switches between English and Spanish here

“Vibra” opens with the three men playing the barril and a slow bass line.  She sings the verses and then throws in a growly rapped verse.  I really enjoy the slinky way the song ends with them singing “and I’ll be on my way.”

And before the send us out, there’s a quick barril serenade.

[READ: May 3, 2021] “How Octavia E. Butler Reimagines Sex and Survival”

Having read three of Octavia E. Butler’s book recently, I was saving this article (what timing) until all three were done.  And considering the opening line of this article mentions Parable of The Sower (the second book of the three that we read) I’m glad I waited.

Although this is really a book review of her new Library of America Collection (she is the sixth science fiction writer to be featured in the series and the the first Black science fiction writer).  The book collects Kindred (1979) Fledgling (2005) and short stories.

He says, as we have noted

It’s often observed that the Parables, already prescient when they were published, now read like prophecy

But I didn’t know that Earthseed had inspired an opera by folksinger Toshi Reagon and that last September Parable of the Sower was back on the best seller list (we’re so trendy).

The article notes that her protagonists often begin as fugitives or captives but emerge as prodigies of survival only to find that adaptation exacts hidden costs. (more…)

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 SOUNDTRACK: THE REDNECK MANIFESTO-The How (2018).

Despite a terrible name that would keep me away from wanting to see them, The Redneck Manifesto are a very interesting and complicated band.  I discovered them through the book of Irish drummers.  TRM drummer Mervyn Craig is in the book.

The How is the band’s fifth album (and first in eight years).  The album is chock full of instrumentals that touch all genres of music.

There are jazzy elements, dancey elements and rock elements.  There are solos (but never long solos) and jamming sections.  Most of the songs are around 4 minutes long with a couple running a little longer.

“Djin Chin” has jangly chords and quiet riffs that switch to a muted melody.  All the while the bass is loping around.  It shifts tempos three times in the first two minutes.  Around three minutes the bass takes over the lead instrument pushing the song along with deep notes.

“The Rainbow Men” has a circular kind of riff with swirling effects that launch the song during the musical pauses.  After a minute and a half it drastically shifts direction and the adds in a cool solo.

“Sip Don’t Gulp” starts with a catchy bouncy guitar riff and bass lines.  At two minutes it too shifts gears to a staggered riff that sounds great.

“Kobo” is the shortest song and seems to tell a melodic story.  The two guitars play short, fast rhythms as call and response while the bass rumbles along.

“Head Full of Gold” is over 6 minutes with a thumping bass, rumbling drums and soft synths.  “No One” is nearly 7 minutes and feels conventionally catchy until you try to keep up with the beats.  After a middle series of washes from various instruments, the back half is a synthy almost dancey rhythm.

“Sweep” is a pretty song until the half-way mark when it just takes off in a fury of fast drumming and complex chords.  The end builds in upward riding notes until it hits a calming ending

“We Pigment” is a poppy staccato dancey number.  The second half turns martial with a series of four beat drum patterns and a soaring guitar solo.  More staccato runs through to the end.  “The Underneath Sun” also has a lot of staccato–fast guitar notes interspersed with bigger chords.  The end of the song is just littered with sweeping guitar slides until the thumping conclusion.

This album is great and I’m looking forward to exploring their other releases.

[READ: January 10, 2021] A History of Ireland in 100 Words

This book looks at old Irish words–how they’ve evolved and how they show the way Irish history came about.  The authors say:

our store of words says something fundamental about us and how we think.  This book is meant to provide insights into moments of life that may be otherwise absent from history books.  The focus is on Gaelic Ireland throughout as Gaelic was the native language of the majority of the inhabitants of the island for the last 2000 years. It yielded its primacy to English only in the last 150 years.

We selected words with the aim of illustrating each of our themes as broadly as possible.  We wanted the words in all their richness to tell their story … like how the word that originally meant noble came to mean cheaper (saor).

Almost all of the entries reference The cattle raid of Cooley (The Ulster Cycle) which features the hero Cú Chulainn.  This story is at the heart of most of historical Ireland and it’s pretty fascinating how many of these Gaelic words either originate with that story or get their foundation from the story.

There’s a general pronunciation guide although I wish each word had a phonetic guide because anyone who speaks English will look at Irish a if it is just a jumble of nonsensical consonants.

The book is broken down into sections, although the authors insist that there is no correct way to read the book.

  • Writing and Literature
  • Technology and Science
  • Food and Feasting
  • The Body
  • Social Circles
  • Other Worlds
  • War and Politics
  • A Sense of Place
  • Coming and Going
  • Health and Happiness
  • Trade and Status
  • Entertainment and Sport
  • The Last Word

There are also delightfully weird wood carving-like drawings from by Joe McLaren scattered throughout the book.

The words are listed below with either a definition or an interesting anecdote included. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: YOLA-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #70 (August 25, 2020).

Yola is a Britiish singer with an amazing voice.  She is quarantining in Nashville and for this Home Concert, she is playig in a lovely backyard in Nashville with guitarist Jordan Tice.

Yola has one album out (and an EP) and her songs are full of soul and energy.  And that voice!

These four songs are stripped to just acoustic guitar (Tice plays lead on some of the tracks).  They are

 beautiful interpretations of songs from her 2019 album Walk Through Fire and her 2016 EP Orphan Offering that pull back the intensity I associate with Yola’s music, but are still passionate and fervent.

I’ve enjoyed hearing the recorded versions of these songs but hearing them stripped down to just melody and her voice, the sound even better.

“Faraway Look” is a gorgeous song with a terrific melody.  It sounds really quite different with the acoustic guitar but her voice is perfectly suited to it regardless of what kind of music backs it up.  And the way she can hold those notes is really stunning.

“Dead And Gone” feels more relevant now than when she wrote it for her 2016 EP.  This song is a little darker with some nice soloing notes from Tice.

“Love Is Light” is a beautiful ballad with a fantastic vocal melody.

I love the final song, “It Ain’t Easier.”  It’s got two great vocal lines back to back in the chorus.  I could listen to her sing it all night long.  And those little grace notes at the end are pretty awesome.

[READ: August 23, 2020] Malamander

I don’t often pick out children’s books to read.  Although I’m rarely disappointed when I find one that looks good.  My daughter and I were in Barnes & Noble and I saw this book.  The title, cover and description sounded really fun.  So I decided to buy it.  And I’m glad I did.  It was a fast, engaging read and the start of a promising series.

The book is set in Eerie-on-Sea.  Eerie-on-Sea is a wonderful place to vacation in the summer (when it is known as Cheerie-on-Sea).  But nobody wants to be there in the winter.  Sometimes not even the people who live there want to be there.  It’s bleak. It’s cold.  It’s windy.  And there is the legend of the fearsome Malamander.

When people visit they stay in The Grand Nautilus Hotel.  The Hotel’s Lost-and-Founder is 12 year old Herbie Lemon.  Perhaps you’ve never heard of a Lost-and-Founder, but you should have–who else is in charge of making sure everyone gets their lost items back?

Herbie is very good at his job.  But a big surprise happens when a girl climbs through the window of his office and asks him to hide her.  He does as she asks–who wouldn’t–just as two men come to Herbie’s door.  One is Mr. Mollusc, the manger of the Hotel who dislikes Herbie and dislikes the whole idea of the Lost-and Founder.  Fortunately for Herbie, Mr Mollusc is not the owner.  The owner, Lady Kraken, LOVES having a Lost -and Founder, she finds it essentially to running a good hotel.  The other man is large and scary with a hook for a hand.  Herbie and the girl, Violet, call him Boat Hook Man.

The girl is Violet Parma.  Her parents went missing from the hotel 12 years ago, when Violet was a baby  Violet was orphaned and raised by her Aunt.  She has now come all the way back to Eerie-on-Sea by herself to find out what she she can about her missing parents (she is sure they are not dead).  Coincidentally, Herb is also an orphan.  He was found by Lady Kraken and that’s how he got the job. (more…)

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